by Gena Showalter, fantasy (2006)
HQN, $6.99, ISBN 0-373-77096-0
The hero of Gena Showalter's Jewel Of Atlantis, Grayson James, comes this close to being a male version of a certain Betsy Taylor but thankfully this story has more going for it than non-stop whining and moaning in a "fifteen-year old girl trying too hard to be funny" way. In fact, Jewel Of Atlantis is actually pretty good fun thanks to Grayson for a while, although I must confess that the story fast becomes one-dimensional and played-out.
Grayson James is, in a way, the perfect man. He's really low maintenance as his needs in life are simple. Just give him plenty of sex and plenty of things to blow up and our Trekkie turned Otherworld Bureau of Investigation field operative hunk is happy. He is sent to Atlantis on one of those illogical "one man against an entire nation of Big Evil" missions that you only find in dated 1980s/1990s action movies like Die Hard and Rambo. He is to retrieve the Jewel of Dunamis that will be a terrible tool of destruction if it falls into the wrong hands. Naturally, the United States of America are always the right hands when it comes to magical weapons of mass destruction. As Gray braves vampires, demons, and dragons, he realizes that the Jewel is in fact a female Atlantean, a comely one at that, so love or whatever passes for it may be on the menu as our twosome try to get away from the big bad meanies in Atlantis.
Meanwhile, Gray has been bitten by both a vampire and a demon so he's starting to feel funny. Don't worry though - you know how heroines are in this kind of stories. Their private parts can heal everything and even bring back people from the dead (or so I hear), so be assured that Gray isn't going to turn into something like poor Jeff Goldblum's character in The Fly or that really poor sucker (with a great butt though) in An American Werewolf In London.
The world-building in this book is very light on details - Atlantis is a hodge-podge kitchen sink for every creature that has ever been featured in a paranormal/urban fantasy romance and Ms Showalter expects the reader to "see" what she's talking about when she uses phrases like "demons" instead of describing what kind of demons she's talking about. The plot feels dated, like a Flash Gordon movie in the 1970s, come to think of it. That's not a bad thing, really, because this book's greatest strength lies in Gray and the cheesy plot brings out the best kind of good-natured action hero recklessness from this fellow. He's a hoot as this happy-go-lucky action hero who is always thinking about sex or blowing things up. There are times when Gray comes off as really too flippant or smart-alecky to the point of being too much like a crossdressing lesbian version of a MaryJanice Davidson heroine but on the whole he's a fun hero.
However, I wish I can say the same for the deadly dull Jewel who is pretty much a damsel-in-distress dragged from Point A to Point B by Gray. When she's not trying to act like a martyr, her role in the story is to receive sexual awakening while providing the healing touch with her magical private parts. Jewel has a very predictable role in this story and she has to be this humorless bore while she's at it. Because she's so infatuated with Gray that she doesn't challenge him in this story, Gray unfortunately remains a one-dimensional Mr Happy Action Hero from start to finish with very little character growth. As a result, as much as the book starts out a fun and campy road trip adventure, the lack of depths in both the plot and the characters soon become very apparent.
Jewel Of Atlantis has a fun hero and the author has a pretty good idea what she wants to do with the story, but the final execution is still lacking with that extra something to give this book an edge to savor and remember.
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